Angels & Ministers
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English

Angels & Ministers

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Angels & Ministers, by Laurence HousmanThis eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it,give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online atwww.gutenberg.netTitle: Angels & MinistersAuthor: Laurence HousmanRelease Date: February 10, 2004 [EBook #11020]Language: English*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK ANGELS & MINISTERS ***Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Keren Vergon, Charles M. Bidwell, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.ANGELS AND MINISTERSAND OTHER VICTORIAN PLAYSbyLAURENCE HOUSMANAngels and Ministers AND Possession WERE FIRSTIntroductionThe Victorian era has ceased to be a thing of yesterday; it has become history; and the fixed look of age, no longercontemporary in character, which now grades the period, grades also the once living material which went to its making.With this period of history those who were once participants in its life can deal more intimately and with moreverisimilitude than can those whose literary outlook comes later. We can write of it as no sequent generation will findpossible; for we are bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh; and when we go, something goes with us which will require forits reconstruction, not the natural piety of a returned native, such as I claim to be, but the cold, calculating art of literaryexcursionists whose domicile is ...

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The Project Gutenberg EBook of Angels &
Ministers, by Laurence Housman
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at
no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever.
You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the
terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net
Title: Angels & Ministers
Author: Laurence Housman
Release Date: February 10, 2004 [EBook #11020]
Language: English
*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG
EBOOK ANGELS & MINISTERS ***
Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Keren Vergon,
Charles M. Bidwell, and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team.ANGELS AND
MINISTERS
AND OTHER VICTORIAN PLAYS
by
LAURENCE HOUSMAN
Angels and Ministers AND Possession WERE
FIRST
Introduction
The Victorian era has ceased to be a thing of
yesterday; it has become history; and the fixed
look of age, no longer contemporary in character,
which now grades the period, grades also the once
living material which went to its making.
With this period of history those who were once
participants in its life can deal more intimately and
with more verisimilitude than can those whose
literary outlook comes later. We can write of it as
no sequent generation will find possible; for we arebone of its bone and flesh of its flesh; and when we
go, something goes with us which will require for its
reconstruction, not the natural piety of a returned
native, such as I claim to be, but the cold,
calculating art of literary excursionists whose
domicile is elsewhere.
Some while ago, before Mr. Strachey had made
the name of Victoria to resound as triumphantly as
it does now, a friend asked why I should trouble to
resuscitate these Victorian remains. My answer is
because I myself am Victorian, and because the
Victorianism to which I belong is now passing so
rapidly into history, henceforth to present to the
world a colder aspect than that which endears it to
my own mind.
The bloom upon the grape only fully appears when
it is ripe for death. Then, at a touch, it passes,
delicate and evanescent as the frailest blossoms of
spring. Just at this moment the Victorian age has
that bloom upon it—autumnal, not spring-like—
which, in the nature of things, cannot last. That
bloom I have tried to illumine before time wipes it
away.
Under this rose-shaded lamp of history,
domestically designed, I would have these old
characters look young again, or not at least as
though they belonged to another age. This wick
which I have kindled is short, and will not last; but,
so long as it does, it throws on them the
commentary of a contemporary light. In another
generation the bloom which it seeks to irradiate willbe gone; nor will anyone then be able to present
them to us as they really were.
Contents
PART ONE: ANGELS AND MINISTERS
I. THE QUEEN: GOD BLESS HER!
(A Scene from Home-Life in the Highlands)
II. HIS FAVOURITE FLOWER
(A Political Myth Explained)
III. THE COMFORTER
(A Political Finale)
PART TWO
IV. POSSESSION
(A Peep-Show in Paradise)
PART THREE: DETHRONEMENTS
V. THE KING-MAKER
(Brighton—October, 1891)
VI. THE MAN OF BUSINESS
(Highbury—August, 1913)VII. THE INSTRUMENT
(Washington—March, 1921)Part One: Angels and Ministers
The Queen: God Bless Her!
Dramatis Personae
QUEEN VICTORIA LORD BEACONSFIELD MR.
JOHN BROWN A FOOTMAN
The Queen: God Bless Her!
A Scene from Home-Life in the Highlands
The august Lady is sitting in a garden-tent on the
lawn of Balmoral Castle. Her parasol leans beside
her. Writing-materials are on the table before her,
and a small fan, for it is hot weather; also a dish of
peaches. Sunlight suffuses the tent interior,
softening the round contours of the face, and
caressing pleasantly the small plump hand busy at
letter-writing. The even flow of her penmanship is
suddenly disturbed; picking up her parasol, she
indulgently beats some unseen object, lying
concealed against her skirts.
QUEEN. No: don't scratch! Naughty! Naughty!
(She then picks up a hand-bell, rings it, and
continues her writing. Presently a fine figure of aman in Highland costume appears in the tent-door.
He waits awhile, then speaks in the strong Doric of
his native wilds.)
MR. J. BROWN. Was your Majesty wanting
anything, or were you ringing only for the fun?
(To this brusque delivery her Majesty responds
with a cosy smile, for the special function of Mr.
John Brown is not to be a courtier; and, knowing
what is expected of him, he lives up to it.)
QUEEN. Bring another chair, Brown. And take Mop
with you: he wants his walk.
MR. J.B. What kind of a chair are you wanting,
Ma'am? Is it to put your feet on?
QUEEN. No, no. It is to put a visitor on. Choose a
nice one with a lean-back.
MR. J.B. With a lean back? Ho! Ye mean one that
you can lean back in. What talk folk will bring with
them from up south, to be sure! Yes, I'll get it for
ye, Ma'am. Come, Mop, be a braw little wee mon,
and tak' your walk!
(And while his Royal Mistress resumes her writing,
taking Mop by his "lead" he prepares for
departure.)
Have ye seen the paper this morning yet? Ma'am.
(The address of respect is thrown in by way of
afterthought, or, as it were, reluctantly. Having tobe in character, his way is to tread heavily on the
border-line which divides familiarity from respect.)
QUEEN. Not yet.
MR. J.B. (departing). I'll bring it for ye, now.
QUEEN. You had better send it.
J.B. (turning about). What did ye say? … Ma'am.
QUEEN. "Send it," Brown, I said. Mop mustn't be
hurried. Take him round by the stables.
(He goes: and the Queen, with a soft, indulgent
smile, that slowly flickers out as the labour of
composition proceeds, resumes her writing.)
(Presently ENTERS a liveried Footman, who
stands at attention with the paper upon a salver.
Touching the table at her side as an indication, the
Queen continues to write. With gingerly reverence
the man lays down the paper and goes. Twice she
looks at it before taking it up; then she unfolds it;
then lays it down, and takes out her glasses; then
begins reading. Evidently she comes on something
she does not like; she pats the table impatiently,
then exclaims:)
Most extraordinary!
(A wasp settles on the peaches.)
And I wish one could kill all wicked pests as easily
as you.(She makes a dab with the paper-knife, the wasp
escapes.)
Most extraordinary!
(Relinquishing the pursuit of wasps, she resumes
her reading.)
(In a little while Mr. John Brown returns, both
hands occupied. The chair he deposits by the tent
door, and hitches Mop's "lead" to the back of that
on which the Queen is sitting. With the small
beginnings of a smile she lowers the paper, and
looks at him and his accompaniments.)
QUEEN. Well, Brown? Oh, yes; that's quite a nice
one…. I'm sure there's a wasps' nest somewhere;
there are so many of them about.
J.B. Eh, don't fash yourself! Wasps have a way of
being aboot this time of year. It's the fruit they're
after.
QUEEN. Yes: like Adam and Eve.
J.B. That's just it, Ma'am.
QUEEN. You'd better take it away, Brown, or cover
it; it's too tempting.
J.B. (removing the fruit). Ah! Now if God had only
done that, maybe we'd still all be running aboot
naked.
QUEEN. I'm glad He didn't, then.